By Harry Sanders
 
 

INTRODUCTION


For the average layman, the life of a P.O.W. was difficult to conceive. People have obviously different perceptions as to what awaits the serviceman who finds himself in the hands of the enemy. Certain countries treat prisoners in various ways, as in Germany, some camps have different living conditions. The particular camp that Sgt. Gaulette and myself were sent to was one that should be of most interest to the reader of this prologue, because of the following reasons.

 1. It was the largest P.O.W. camp in Germany.

2. It had a notorious reputation among prisoners.

3. The camp was situated in an area that made escape difficult. Although this did not stop the P.O.Ws from trying. However, many of these men in their attempts to reach England failed, and were shot on sight.


 
Outward bound

 
 
A RECORD OF THE RAID ON MUNICH. DECEMBER 21st. 1942.

On the above date, we, the crew of..( Deleted ) took off from an aerodrome in East Anglia to bomb the Nazi headquarters at Munich, Bavaria. The trip to Germany was uneventful. On our first run-up over the target we were hit by flak and our starboard engine caught fire, but was extinguished by the crew. We dropped our bombs and began the dangerous return trip to England on three engines.

Shortly there-after we were attacked by an ME.110. After a battle with the attacking fighter, we eventually caught fire and the whole starboard wing was ablaze. The order to "bale out" was given. The bombardier left the Aircraft first, followed by the engineer and then myself at approximately 700 ft. Fortunately I landed in a tree thus breaking my fall. After considerable difficulty I managed to free myself and reached the ground minus parachute. I set off for the Bavarian Alps, which were visible from where I was. However I was captured by a civilian policeman after fifteen minutes of freedom.


 

The following is Sgt. Goulette's account of the raid
told to a third party after the war.

  They, referring to the crew of the Lancaster, 44th Squadron, were half an hour late in starting owing to their having to go in a different plane at the last minute and so when they reached Munich they were the last to go in and every available searchlight and gun was concentrated on them. They were hit over the target and one engine set on fire but they managed to put the fire out but had to come home on three engines which of course meant that the plane was much less maneuverable and was an easy target for fighters. As they neared Heidelburg they were attacked by an M.E. 110 and there was a running fight for 3/4 of an hour Then it broke off but unfortunately it came in again from underneath their blind spot and raked them with its guns from end to end setting the starboard wing on fire. Then the pilot gave the order to abandon aircraft. They were by then down to 1000 ft. Sgt. Goulette went first, then Sgt. Imrie (but unfortunately his parachute did not open) and he was killed, and then Sgt. Sanders. So they were the only three who managed to get out. Sgt. Goulette landed in a field an saw the plane go down. Just above the tree tops it flattened out as though the pilot was going to make a crash landing but on hitting the ground it blew up. He and Sgt. Sanders, who had landed near a different village, met the German pilot who had shot them down, in the Burgomaster's office, and he congratulated them on the splendid fight they had put up. When they told him they had been flying on three engines he could hardly believe it and said they ought to be flying for the Luftwaffe instead of the RAF.

A special thanks to C.B. for this information.

Information received from B. Kettle (Volunteer - Ministry of defense)

   21/22 December 1942  Operation : Munich
Your dads plane.....  44Sqn  Lancaster I   W4125   KM-Q
T/o 1802 Waddington. Crashed 2 km N of Bad Rappeneau, 15 km NNW of
Heilbronn,
Germany. Those who died are buried in Durnbach War Cemetery.

Operation: Munich
137 aircraft of 1 and 5 Groups and the Pathfinder Force - 119 Lancasters, 9
Stirlings, 9 Wellingtons.    12 aircraft - 8 Lancasters, 3 Stirlings, 1 Wellington were lost, 8.8% of the force.
110 aircraft claimed to have bombed Munich and started fires but their
photographs showed that all or most of the bombs fell in open country,
possible attracted by a decoy site.

Details of your father receiving his DFC appears in the London Gazette on 17
January 1941.
Thank you Bruce for this information

ME 109 close to the plane that shot down the Lancaster
 

Lancaster
The lucky ones bailed out



 
 
 

Map of crash

The fate of the crew

The fate of the other members of the crew was told to me by the Luftwaffe authorities in the village of Rappenau, where I was taken. The engineer was found dead with his parachute, which had failed to open. The bombardier was captured in the adjoining village of Babstadt with a bullet in his arm. (Sergeant Jimmy Goulette) The rest of the crew went down with the Aircraft which blew up after hitting the ground. All the crew in the Aircraft were killed and finally buried with full Military honors at Rappenau. Sergeant Goulette and myself were taken to Mannheim, Frankfurt and finally began our lives as Prisoners-of-war at Stalag V111B, Upper Silesia, Eastern Germany. From Rappenau where Jimmy Goulette, and myself were brought together, we were taken from the inquisitive country folk of that peaceful village to Mannheim by train to a permanent Luftwaffe camp on the outskirts of the city. We were escorted by two Luftwaffe guards who took good care that we didn't try to escape. Jimmy however, was in no condition to attempt a break, because of a bullet wound in his left arm. He was in great pain and weak from loss of blood. After a hazardous train journey through Mannheim, we arrived at the German Air Force camp and there Jimmy was sent to hospital and I to the guard room. During our stay there we were well treated by the guards and indeed all the time we were in the hands of the Luftwaffe we could have wished for no better treatment. From Mannheim were taken to Frankfurt to the well known propaganda camp of Dulogluft. That was the receiving depot for most Air Force prisoners. On arrival at Dulagluft, Jim was taken to hospital and I with others were put in what is commonly known as the "Cooler" or "Bunker". The cooler is a small two by four room furnished with a wooden bed, one table and one chair. Here I spent five days including Christmas, waiting to be interrogated. The food consisted of two slices of black bread and a cup of mint tea in the morning. A bowl of soup and potatoes for lunch and the bread and salty coffee for supper. Some less fortunate than myself have spent anything up to 21 days in these miserable quarters.

It is here where the first pangs of hunger and craving for a smoke are brought home to the usually well fed men of the R.A.F. The cooler however has proved to be an ingenious device to the German Authorities to make men "Talk". The idea is very simple, a man put in solitary for a few days is apt to talk incessantly to anyone who will listen to him and the Germans were always eager to "Listen". Once out of the cooler we were taken to the main camp, where we met numerous chaps, some who had been captured in the Middle East and others like myself shot down over Germany itself.


 


 

New years eve 1942

New Years Eve in the main camp of Dulagluft was quite a festive occasion. In fact if P.O.W. life was to be judged by it, the future looked pretty rosy. There was plenty of food and drink also a dance band etc. One particular song, composed by a fleet air arm chap was very popular and very appropriately was called "It won't be long now." I shouldn't be surprised if it becomes a hit tune. The day finally came for our removal to a permanent camp. January 1943 we set off for Stalag V111 B. A monotonous journey lasting days, finally brought us to "Lammsdorf" station where the whole 74 of us marched to camp. A striking scene, I thought, snow glistened in the moonlight and covered the landscape. with our faces muffled against the cold and the "crunch" of marching feet, we were a grim bunch, entering a new world. Shortly a large forbidding looking camp loomed up before us. It was not unlike a large fort as one would see on a frontier post. However, the difference was obvious. A large Nazi swastika was hung at the mast head and the whole place was lit with powerful searchlights. Green uniformed German guards, who were to be our personal "Jailers" for the duration, opened the main gates and we entered. A new life began for all of us.

INSIDE STALAG V111 B.

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